Epileptic syndromes in childhood: clinical features, outcomes, and treatment

Epilepsia. 2002;43 Suppl 3:27-32. doi: 10.1046/j.1528-1157.43.s.3.3.x.


We reviewed the clinical features, outcome, and treatment of many of the epileptic syndromes that begin in the childhood from 2 to 12 years of age, using a review of the literature and personal experience, with most references to authoritative texts. The developmental tasks of childhood are centered on refinement of motor skills and development of complex intellectual and social skills. The childhood onset epilepsies can be divided into benign, intermediate, and catastrophic based on their impact on childhood development. The clearest benign epilepsy is benign rolandic epilepsy, which often does not require medication treatment. The definition of benign occipital epilepsy is still often vague. In the intermediate category, childhood absence epilepsy often has associated learning disorders and a poor social outcome. About 50% of children with cryptogenic partial seizures have a very benign course, even though their epilepsy syndrome is not well defined. Generalized epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+) has a dominant inheritance with a defined defect in cerebral sodium channels, but varies considerably in severity within affected members of the same kindred. The catastrophic epilepsies in childhood all have an inconsistent response to AED treatment and include continuous spike-wave in slow sleep (with variable severity), Landau-Kleffner syndrome (with a confusing overlap with autistic regression), the Lennox Gastaut syndrome (with broad defining features), and myoclonic-astatic epilepsy (with important overlaps with Lennox-Gastaut). Many of the epilepsies that begin in childhood are benign. Others interfere seriously with cognitive and social development.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography / statistics & numerical data
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic / classification
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic / diagnosis
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / classification
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy, Absence / classification
  • Epilepsy, Absence / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy, Absence / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome / classification
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prognosis
  • Syndrome


  • Anticonvulsants